Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Who the heck is that?
By Maria Johnson
The first time I saw a blow dry bar was last year, when we visited our son in Brooklyn.
We were walking through his neighborhood, on our way to breakfast, when I noticed this storefront that said, “Blow Dry Bar,” only somehow I missed the word “dry,” so there I was, reflecting on this “blow bar” I’d just seen, unable to stop myself from thinking, “Wow, that’s pretty brazen.”
By the time breakfast was over, I had managed to console myself by thinking, “Well, this is New York City.”
On the way back from breakfast I inspected the shop’s façade more closely, and I caught the word “dry.”
I was relieved. Slightly.
I was pretty sure that a blow dry bar was a place for wash-and-dry hair styling. No cuts, no color. I resisted the urge to stick my own disheveled head in the door. Several months later, I heard about a new blow dry bar right here in Greensboro.
First a cat cafe. Now a blow dry bar.
How in the world did we fall off Amazon’s list for HQ2, its second North American headquarters?
I don’t get it either. But hair goes on, so I checked out the website of Blasted Blow Dry Bar, which bills itself as the first of its kind in Greensboro.
“From ordinary to extraordinary in 45 minutes,” the website promises.
I perused the menu of $35 blow out options. Each bore a woman’s name and was accompanied by a picture of a model sporting that look.
I settled on The Grace (“Sleek, polished and groomed, for those who want their hair to scream A-list”). Believe it or not, I looked just like the woman modeling in The Grace.
If I were 30 years younger.
And had green eyes.
And full lips.
And parted my hair in the middle.
And wore a lot of make-up.
And could pull off a sultry come-hither look instead of my usual where-the-hell’s-my-cell-phone expression.
But hey, we both had brown hair. Close enough. Plus, I had a big date coming up: Taco Tuesday at a Mexican restaurant that my husband and I wanted to try. Having A-list hair wouldn’t hurt the ol’ how-about-some-free-guacamole cause, now would it?
I made an appointment.
Later that afternoon, I entered the salon to a warm welcome. The owner asked if I wanted a complimentary mimosa or glass of wine — don’t mind if I do – and she introduced me to my stylist, a sweet young woman named Ally. As I sat down for a shampoo, Ally asked which service I wanted.
“I want to look just like Grace,” I said. “Can you do that?”
Ally smiled and clasped her hands in front of her heart. Her eyes were still tabulating if I were serious.
“We can TRY!” she said.
I took the pressure off: “I bet some women think they’re gonna look just like the pictures, huh?”
Olive branch received.
“Yeah, sometimes, we say that we don’t do plastic surgery here, just hair,” she said as she lathered my locks. I liked this kid.
Most of her customers are women on the way to weddings, parties, proms and other special occasions. Some clients are businesswomen who want their hair to look spiffy for a couple of days.
Minutes later, Ally ushered me back up front to the “bar,” where she got to work with an assortment of “product”: leave-in conditioner, mousse, blow out spray, and the real key to success for this ’do: a healthy glass of chardonnay for me.
Spritz, spritz. Massage, massage. Foam, foam.
She dried my hair, combing it with fingers only, until it was barely damp. Then she picked up a small round brush and commenced sculpting the flips and twirls that would bring me close(r) to a state of Grace.
I sipped wine and slipped into a blissed-out trance that, as far as I can tell, is possible only when someone else is grooming you. I was feeling remarkably un-self-conscious.
Then I realized why. There were no mirrors placed so that anyone sitting in a chair could see herself.
Soooooo, I asked, what’s up with the mirrors?
“We want you to be surprised!” came the answer.
(Translation: We’re not plastic surgeons, but you don’t need to know that yet.)
Another question: Aren’t you limited by people’s haircuts?
Ally’s answer: “It depends on the layers. You have awesome layers.”
There was a time when I would have looked askance at such a compliment. No more.
Awesome layers, eh? I sat up a little straighter in my chair.
“I’ll be sure to tell my regular stylist,” I said.
“Yeah, you should,” said Ally.
(Shout out to Wendy at Thairapy, bestower of awesome layers).
Then it was done.
“Are you ready?” said Ally.
“Let’s do it,” I said.
She gave me a hand mirror and invited me to walk over to the mirror-mirror on the wall.
I’ll be damned. Free guacamole, here I come.
“Does she look like Grace?” called out someone from behind the bar.
“I think she looks better than Grace,” said Ally.
We all laughed. Their lines had the ring of a script, probably one calculated to end with a big tip.
It worked. OH
Maria “Grace” Johnson did indeed get guacamole at no extra charge that night. It came with the tacos. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.